When I use a superlative, I'm describing something deep and rare. I've told you before that the longest night of my life was when E decided to cut her first molars while the lovely husband hallucinated on his narcotic pain relief after a rib-spreading lung tumor removal surgery. And the hardest morning? When E had her first ear surgery. Tomorrow morning is the bookend surgery, and oh my, I'm not doing well.
She knows what we're doing tomorrow, and so I had this plan to keep her so busy today that she'd quickly fall asleep tonight, because the nighttime worrying is the rawest and least reassurable. It worked so well, my plan, that by the time I finished reading to her sister, she was asleep in bed. I cursed in my head and turned out her light, which caused her to awaken just enough to look at me, hold out her hand, and close her eyes again.
I scooted into her bed. "I'll snuggle you for a bit. You sleep," I whispered. She draped her arm around my neck and breathed slowly into my hair. My breath caught and I couldn't cry, I told myself, because I didn't want my shaking to wake her. But I let her hold me, and I remembered our awful pre-op appointment on Tuesday, and her anger at the physical violation that is surgery prep from her first bout 2.5 years ago, and how much worse her fear of doctors and reluctance to be touched by strangers has grown since them. I saw in my mind how she walked into surgery in her purple underpants, refusing to wear the hospital gown, refusing to be rolled in on a gurney, staunchly defending her three-year-old's small right to dignity and autonomy in the face of her biggest fears unfolding.
First thing this morning, I dug into L's dresser drawers to find her an outfit for our busy day out and I saw those purple underpants. They're property of the second child now, and neither girl knows this but I can't see those unders without hearing E's screams and feeling her tears soaking through the shoulder of my sweater. If I'm being honest with you, the plan to keep E too busy to remember was at least equally designed to keep me too busy to remember what we're doing early tomorrow, and that might have worked if only I hadn't started our day by clutching in my hands for just a moment those purple unders.
Tomorrow will be bad, and I will be alone because the lovely husband will be tending to the other two children.
Tomorrow will be fine, you think, because this is just a minor surgery and it will be over within minutes and E will come through with flying colors. And you're right and you're wrong, because you're thinking about the medical outcomes and I've never been worried about the medical outcomes. I am worried about E's fear of medical instruments and medical-speak and medical practitioners; about her panicked reactions and thrashing reactions and unbearably loud and impossibly sustaining scream. I'm worried about the damage to her soul, as she faces the thing that's haunted her nightmares for 2.5 years again tomorrow morning. I'm worried about the damage to her self-esteem, as she behaves so primally animal-like and nastily to medical personnel and apologizes repeatedly and repeatedly but only hours later, knowing that is how she shouldn't be, and hating herself for it. I'm worried for how scared she'll feel in that last moment of consciousness, and how there is nothing I can do to alleviate it.
I'm worried about not crying in front of her, which sounds like something that will require more resolve than I can summon, and which I only just barely succeeded at last time. But this time is worse, because both she and I know just how far we have to go.
It's almost midnight here, which means that many of you have sensibly gone to bed and won't even read this until the whole thing is over. But I can't sleep, because morning comes so soon.